“I’ll tell you, Marge, my attorney is a wizard, a downright magician. When the time comes and my kids stick me in a nursing home, I am going to be ready. She has created a plan that protects my assets and will enable me to qualify for Medi-Cal quickly.” Lynda smiled triumphantly as she sipped her coffee.
Marge frowned. “I thought that was illegal. You don’t mess with Medicare or Medi-Cal. That’s a crime, and I would rather wind up in a nursing home than in jail. The mattresses are softer in a nursing home.”
Lynda chuckled. “Who am I to complain if my attorney is smart enough to work the system? That’s what I pay her for.”
“But isn’t Medi-Cal eligibility based on existing assets?” Marge pointed at Lynda. “You girl, have lots of assets. Harold left you in good shape. I can’t imagine you could spend your way through all of that in your lifetime, so what’s the big deal?”
Lynda shook her head and refilled her coffee cup from the carafe sitting on the table. “The deal is, I have children and grandchildren. I want them to inherit my assets. If I don’t plan ahead, the government could take everything and leave them with nothing. That’s not what Harold wanted and that’s not what I want either.”
“But how can you do that legally? Doesn’t the law say you can’t transfer assets to your heirs just to qualify for Medi-Cal? Isn’t that fraud?” Marge shivered. “I think you’re dancing on a fine line here. Are you sure that lawyer knows what she’s doing? After all, it’s your neck if she steers you wrong. When that judge throws the book at you, ain’t no lawyer gonna catch you.”
Lynda pursed her lips and emitted an exasperated sigh. “That’s why I hired an attorney to do Medi-Cal planning. They know the ins and outs of the law, and work with you to create a plan that protects your assets legally, and at the same time, permits you to qualify for Medi-Cal when and if the need develops. It’s just common sense.”
“Well, I don’t know… It still sounds fishy to me.”
Lynda fixed a stink eye on Marge. “And what plans do you have in place if you need nursing home or long-term care?”
Marge sputtered, “Well nothing, really. I always figured my kids would just take care of everything.”
Lynda glared at her. “Somehow, I don’t think your kids want to wind up bankrupt because you didn’t plan ahead. Wake up and smell the coffee, Marge. It’s your job to plan for your future, not your kids.’”
There is nothing illegal about Medi-Cal planning. In fact, it’s an important aspect of estate planning. Medi-Cal planning attorneys not only understand the intricacies of health-related laws, such as Medicare and Medi-Cal, they are also skilled in enabling clients to maximize the benefits provided under those laws.
There is nothing magical or tricky about it. It is simply a matter of managing your assets in a way that ensures long-term care will not leave you or your family financially destitute. Sheltering and protecting assets is legal when done in accordance with the law. And because no one has a right to long-term care in this country, Medi-Cal planning is a smart choice.
It is a myth than Elder Law attorneys hide assets. That is illegal and in fact, applications for Medi-Cal assistance require a complete and transparent disclosure of assets. Any attorney who was complicit in hiding a client’s assets and/or intentionally failed to disclose them would be disciplined or disbarred. That means they could lose their license to practice law. Considering the time and monies invested in establishing a legal career, that is not a risk most attorneys are willing to take.
Instead, Elder Law attorneys help clients develop strategic plans for legally protecting and/or sheltering assets. Medi-Cal planning is no different than income tax or estate planning. It is simply a method of taking advantage of existing laws to a client’s advantage. That minimizes the impact of healthcare costs and taxes on your wealth.
In many ways, Medi-Cal is a form of federally subsidized long-term care insurance. It is there to ensure any senior who needs it has access to nursing or long-term care. That type of care is often not available through traditional resources, such as health insurance or Medicare.
Medi-Cal and Medicare involve a myriad of complex regulations, procedures, exceptions, requirements, and red tape. An attorney trained to navigate through those muddied waters will ensure that you and your assets are well-protected.